Episode 141: Steve Bruce – If It Looks Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is
Renowned Linkedin marketing consultant Steve Bruce joins resident host Brynne Tillman to talk about black hat strategies that are challenging LinkedIn’s regulations.
Listen as Steve shares how he spots fake profiles on LinkedIn, from doing a reverse image search on profile photos to checking out the number of connections for possible signs. You can learn more about Steve and what he does by visiting sbconsulting.com.hk.
Steve Bruce 00:03
For me, sales is about one-to-one. It’s not about one to many. So it’s about building relationships and building a strong powerful network by connecting with the right people and offering them who are interested in your product or service and creating a relationship.
Welcome to the Making Sales Social podcast, featuring the top voices in sales, marketing, and business. Join Brynne Tillman and me, Bob Woods, as we each bring you the best tips and strategies our guests are teaching their clients, so you can leverage them for your own virtual and social selling. Enjoy the show.
Brynne Tillman 00:44
Welcome back to Making Sales Social. I am beyond excited today, as we have Steve Bruce with us all the way from Hong Kong. He is one of Asia’s leading independent LinkedIn trainers, and he helps senior executives, business owners, and corporate teams to present themselves powerfully on LinkedIn. Welcome to our show, Steve, how are you?
Steve Bruce 01:07
I’m great. Thanks for having me on. It’s 10 pm Quarter past 10 at night here in Hong Kong. So like, quite very, quite late in the day for us. But I’m very happy to be here. And yeah, thanks for having me on.
Brynne Tillman 01:18
Thrilled. So before we jump in, because we’re gonna really talk about LinkedIn fake profiles, and you’re kind of the black hat, things that are happening inside of LinkedIn, and some decisions that have been made by courts, that might help it a little. But before we jump into that, the one question we ask all of our guests is, what does making sales social mean to you?
Steve Bruce 01:42
Well, that’s a really good question. Thanks for asking. For me, sales is about one-to-one, it’s not about one to many. So it’s about building relationships, and building a strong, powerful network. So I mean, like, how I do it is I don’t use the Creator mode, for example, because I want to connect with people. So I’ve got about seven and a half 1000 connections, not followers. And it’s all about, I’m constantly using my social selling skills to add my 100 people a week, and I’m very focused. I’m on LinkedIn, for one reason, and one reason only, and that’s to get business and that’s done by connecting with the right people, and offering them with who are interested in your product or service, and creating a relationship with them.
Brynne Tillman 02:25
Awesome. So for you making sales social is just going out and meeting more people and connecting
Steve Bruce 02:32
All the right people. That’s the key point. I have a very in-depth profile of who my target customer is, and might use my buyer persona, if you like, and a good fit target client, I know who they are. And I just connect with those people. And I get a very high connection rate because of that because they’re happy to hear from me.
Brynne Tillman 02:50
That’s awesome. I thank you for that insight. Let’s start with a court has decided that LinkedIn can hold members responsible for the user agreement, right scraping and fake profiles and things like that. So talk to me a little bit about why that’s good news and then what’s going on inside of LinkedIn that they needed to take this to court?
Steve Bruce 03:15
Well this, you’re talking about the HighQ case, which is basically a data scraping company. And they have basically been using LinkedIn, they’ve been scraping all the publicly available information that we all put on there, like our email addresses and phone numbers and all of our contact information, and scraping that off the site using proprietary software and then selling it to clients.
Now, it’s a bit of a funny thing, because on the one hand, if you have the time and energy, you could do it one by one by yourself, because he’s there. So yeah, in some ways, it makes sense to get that information. But you can also see why LinkedIn wouldn’t be happy about it. And also, in a user agreement, there is a clause that specifically prohibits the use of software to stay to scrape.
So this court case has been going on for a long time, HighQ argued that the stuff in the data was in the public domain. LinkedIn didn’t have any claim about it. People have put it there freely. LinkedIn said, Well, we’ve got a user agreement, and you’re breaching it. And the case has gone on for a few years now. And a lot of people have been following it very closely. So I kind of don’t have strong opinions either way but I think that when there’s a user agreement, it’s pretty clear and we’ve got to follow that. So that’s the first part of the question.
The second part is about sales automation software. Now, both you and me, and how you became mates was because we share our passion about one to one and doing it the old school way of building up a proper relationship with the right person and warming them up and offering them value until they’re ready to buy from you so that when they are ready, you’re the person that they think of.
Now, I’ve got a bit of a horror story about this, how it came up. I’ve been posting quite a lot about this recently, and one of my clients came to me and they said, “Ohh, Steve, Bruce, Steve Bruce, come… Help, help help! We’ve had our accounts shut down on LinkedIn.” And I said, What did you do? What did you do? You did something right? Now, it turned out that they outsourced their LinkedIn profile management to some dodgy company in another market and God knows what they did with it. But one, one lady in particular, she was an executive coach, she lost 15 years of LinkedIn, she was like, pretty much crying on the phone going, “I just don’t know what to do. I’m distraught. I’ve lost all my deals and my contacts, all the content I put up there, I don’t know what to do.” And so, unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do. Like if you get your account shut down.
LinkedIn customer service is not very good. The golden tip for everyone, if you don’t know already if you need to talk to LinkedIn, you go to @LinkedInhelp on Twitter, and you’ll actually speak with a person then this is the real best way to get actual help. But as trainers, LinkedIn will only speak to the account owner, they will not speak to us. So there’s very little that we can actually do to help a client that’s got themselves into the situation.
Now, this lady, in particular, tried to set up a new account using a Gmail address with a different ID, and they just blocked her, they blocked her IP address. They’re like, “Nah, nah, nah nah, we’ve seen you before” and she just couldn’t get back on. So she was like, “I don’t know what to do. I’m completely stuffed.” So anyway, luckily for her, Hong Kong is quite a small market, people know people. So she asked around, and she finally found someone who knew someone that worked at LinkedIn and they agreed to help her and they basically managed to get her account on. But I’ve had this problem actually with bonafide clients who had done nothing. And LinkedIn just decided that they were being too active on LinkedIn or acting in a suspicious way, and just shut their account down. So they don’t seem to be very good at spotting it and this is a really ongoing problem.
Brynne Tillman 06:51
It’s kind of tragic. Also, I had a big bank as a client, they bought Sales Navigator for their commercial lenders. I was brought in to train and one of their commercial lenders had almost… I mean he had an account, but he never used LinkedIn. He now took my class on Sales Navigator and was shut down permanently for activity that was not normal.
Steve Bruce 07:16
Not a human activity, that’s what they call it right?
Brynne Tillman 07:18
Well except that they just bought him Sales Navigator, did they expect him not to use it? like he got it, he started using, you know, abnormal activity on this account, he had no activity before. So even though the bank was paying for Sales Navigator, he still got shut down, he never got it open again. However, in his case, he was able to start over and he only had maybe, you know, 100 connections. So it wasn’t devastating, but frustrating, to say the least.
Steve Bruce 07:50
And indeed, I was looking at your profile. And I noticed that you’ve I talked about LinkedIn jail, because you don’t always get shut down completely. You can get chucked in jail. If you add more than 100 people in a week, and you’re not a premium user, or even if you are, I’ll put you in jail. And what that means is that you have to use someone’s email before you can connect with them and you don’t want to do it right. You can’t get marked. And this happened to me before. Years ago, I was a bit too enthusiastic. You’ve got to manage it properly. And it is, you know, there’s so much to lose by getting your account suspended or shut down. It’s just not worth it. I mean, for us, it will be day ruiner.
Brynne Tillman 08:29
Game over. Yeah, yeah, go get a job at Trader Joe’s. So let’s talk about LinkedIn arbitrarily sometimes shuts down but there are still things that we can do to avoid being shut down but let’s talk about some of the mistakes that are being made. One is fake profiles. Let’s talk about that.
Steve Bruce 08:51
Yes, so fake profiles is a bit of a pet topic of mine. In Asia, we were having a terrible problem, where basically, we were getting very attractive Chinese ladies approaching mostly white middle-aged men, and trying to connect with them. Now, the thing was that these profiles were very scant, they had a picture of a pretty girl, but they had a very unfeasible career. So they looked about 30, but they’d been the CEO of L’Oreal, or and also had an MBA and also I’d worked at like, in crypto or something else like this and a very short career but a very senior career with no you know, I mean, the ways to spot for a fake profile, there’s no content, they don’t have many connections, so they don’t have a banner, or if they do, it’s like just it just looks off and the first rule of the internet is if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Now, what I was finding in Asia was the usual suspects of people that I know who are falling for this and connecting with these so-called people but what happened next is that these someone would approach them that they’re personally connected with and say, “Oh, well, let’s talk on WhatsApp.” Now. We actually don’t know what their endgame was for sure. It never came to light…
Brynne Tillman 10:01
Cat phishing. You know, they’re looking for money. They’re looking…
Steve Bruce 10:06
We know that in the US, the people got those a few quite widely publicized stories of people who got crypto scammed from LinkedIn. Now. I mean, I say, I don’t know what the endgame was no one I know actually got scammed but it was just such… in the end, sort of my network of senior executives here, we’re all joking about it and sharing these profiles on posts on LinkedIn going, “Ohh, look at this one…” collecting them, like junk cards. And so it’s actually quite funny. But I do worry that people will get caught.
So they moved on from that. And the next thing that came up was, “Come and see our office tailors”. So this was the new fake profile. And there was one that I actually did a post about. There was a beautiful lady saying she’s going to come to my office and measure me up for a suit. And I was like, “Hmm… that’ll be a bit awkward.” Anyway, I decided to, I thought there’s no way she’s a tailor coming to my office to measure me up for a suit. So I did a Google reverse image search on it and the lady is actually a real estate agent from I think Arizona somewhere.
Brynne Tillman 11:11
Wow! That’s an expensive flight just to measure you up for a suit.
Steve Bruce 11:15
Well, exactly, yeah, that’s a lot for a suit. But I actually contacted her and said, Look, your image is being used on a fake profile on LinkedIn, I’ve reported it from my side, you should report it as well and we need to go to… and she didn’t actually reply, I connected to her as well but she didn’t seem to do anything about it. But the point is that it’s annoying that we, you know, who’s got time to do that with everyone, we can’t just do reverse image searches but it was just that they moved on to that next, they seem to have gone a bit quiet now.
LinkedIn is not that great at taking action when people do bother to report it. And that’s if there was one thing I’d like to see them do is that if at least give us some kind of a reply, and let us know, “Thank you for letting us know, here’s what we did.” But they don’t, they don’t do anything you feel like you’re just, you know, just throwing stones trying to fill up a hole and you just goes into the ether and I find that very frustrating. If I’m taking time out of my busy day as a business owner to report a fake profile, I’d like to know that there was some point to it.
So I hope that LinkedIn will get better at that. They do say that they’ve been shutting down lots of fake profiles and getting better at it. But honestly, I think more needs to be done. So I mean, it’s difficult because at what point do we have the same problem: are people going to have their 100 advisor week and getting their account shut down but are they actually bonafide users?
Brynne Tillman 12:30
Yeah well, I do like this new feature that they have under the More button on people’s profiles, which is like the new verification, it says it’s about if you click on the More on anyone’s profile they have about this profile. I don’t know if you have it yet.
Steve Bruce 12:45
I don’t think we have it in Asia yet.
Brynne Tillman 12:48
Yeah. So it does say when you joined the last time you updated your contact information the last time you uploaded your photo and if you have a verified phone number.
Steve Bruce 12:58
Okay, I can see that on yours here. About this profile. I can see that there now.
Brynne Tillman 13:03
Oh, then you have it now. It may have just rolled out for you.
Steve Bruce 13:06
Yeah, so actually good to know. I’m actually running a LinkedIn workshop for a client tomorrow morning. So good to have that in.
Brynne Tillman 13:12
Yeah. I mean, it’s great. You can see, I mean, like you’ve been on since 2004, it’s hard to maintain a fake profile for that long. I think that’s fantastic. So, that’s a great talk to me a little bit about what people can do to spot some of these fake profiles.
Steve Bruce 13:31
Well, normally what I’ve seen, I kind of developed a bit of a nose for it, I can just generally have, there’s something off, you know, like, there’ll be something on there. Like, you know, I’ve had people trying to impersonate my company, for example, somebody basically told me, just copied my profile, basically in Australia. And then another person was claiming to work for my company in Australia and in Spain. And I left it for ages because I’m a solopreneur. So I don’t mind looking a bit bigger. But actually, in the end, they were starting to post things and go, it wasn’t good. I didn’t like what they were doing.
So normally you can spot firstly, the profile won’t be fully completed. So they’re using some fake profile guys using AI-generated photographs now. And as AI and deep fake gets more advanced and clever, that’s going to become more of a problem. But, you know, LinkedIn themselves will tell you I’ll look out if it’s a famous person, but normally it’s kind of like if something doesn’t quite look right I mean, as I said with the pretty Chinese ladies, they all look very young. And they had the CEO of L’Oreal. I do remember that was one that stuck out and, and a very short Korea, but just unfeasibly senior and very well educated and, again, no content, not many contacts. It just doesn’t look right.
Brynne Tillman 14:59
That’s a big one for me, I look at how many contacts they have, especially if they’re from overseas. If I’m like number five, this is a fake profile.
Steve Bruce 15:09
Yeah, well, I wouldn’t bother. I mean, generally, what I do, I’m very pro-networking. I’m trying to build my network. So if somebody wants to connect with me, I will view their approach favorably. And I will look at them. And I will see like, I’ll do one now while we’re talking and there’s somebody who wants to connect with me.
So there’s one guy, you know, he works in oil and gas. His picture isn’t a proper picture. It’s a picture of an oil bubble and the gas flame. He’s got a very sort of Blade Runner. It looks like an oil rig or something. He’s based in England, we have one mutual connection. He didn’t send me a note with this connection request. He’s looking for genuine buyers for petroleum, crude oil products, and buyers or consumers.
He’s got two jobs, I’m probably not going to connect with him. Now. He probably has a legitimate profile, but it says he’s got 2100 followers but I don’t think he’s going to be my customer and he doesn’t fit my profile.
Someone else has connected to… let’s look at him. No headshot, no banner based in Singapore, 14,000 followers. He’s got 62 mutual connections he’s been posting, but he doesn’t know how to use LinkedIn. And he’s working in the sort of online industry. So I’m like, Well, if you don’t even know how to use LinkedIn, then again, like maybe he’s a target customer for me. I’ll wait and see. I’ll wait and see, so…
Brynne Tillman 16:38
Do you ever reply to them without accepting? So I do that all the time. I will reply to someone or send a message to someone, “Thanks so much for your connection request, typically only connect with people I know or have engaged on LinkedIn may ask how you found me?” and then I ignore them.
Steve Bruce 16:55
What I found actually, is that I mean, I know that Richard van der Blom does this a lot as well. And I, for me, I haven’t got time to do that. I work on my own, I have to be careful how I spend my day. So I won’t bother. I just either connect with them or I don’t and I use scripts for everything. I always use a script when I reach out and when someone connects with me, I always send them a note. I don’t know with you…
Brynne Tillman 17:20
I do! I send a welcome message every time.
Steve Bruce 17:22
And I’d still do what you did to me. “We’ve been connected for a while now. Let’s have a call and have a chat. Just know each other a bit.” It’s just good practice. So, I got, yeah, I normally want to grow my network. I mean, I’ve got 7600 connections. So I want to get a bigger network but I want it to be the right people. And yeah, sometimes I might have missed out like maybe this guy, this oil and gas guy, maybe he’s looking for help, you know. And what I’ve found actually is who’s viewed my profile, secret squirrel stuff. Basically, if somebody I look at who’s viewed my profile, and I’ll send them a note saying, “I noticed you looked at my profile. Let’s connect.” And before I used to think it was a bit creepy. (Ahh you went to my profile. Can I help you?) But I’ve actually got a few clients from it now, because some of those guys they’re a bit lurky, always looking and they just need a prod, a gentle prod. And they were like, “Yeah. Actually, thanks for reaching out. Yeah, actually, I want to work with you?” And I was like, “Oh, I wasn’t expecting that.”
Brynne Tillman 18:25
Yeah and I love the PS in there “May ask how you found me?” because that starts that conversation, which is pretty powerful.
Steve Bruce 18:34
Oh good. Yeah, that’s good. I think I’ll start doing that as well. Now, maybe I’ll give it a try with these guys. And I’ll let you know how I go.
Brynne Tillman 18:40
Yeah. But even if I accept that connection request, I asked how they found me, because that’s a practice. Yeah, it’s just a great way to start that conversation. Well, we are just up against the clock here. I’ve so enjoyed talking with you. I think the bottom line here is for everyone that’s listening. Just follow LinkedIn user agreement, the do’s and don’ts are user agreement 8.2. Point two, if you Google it, you’ll find it. It’s a whole list of what you should do and you shouldn’t do automation and fake profiles are an absolute no, you know, there are some gray hat things right? We have white hat trainers and Black Hat trainers but there’s a lot of gray in the middle. So I would just say educate yourself before you connect any Chrome extension, or you give anyone your password.
Steve Bruce 19:34
That’s the thing. Just don’t. I mean, there’s a group on Facebook, and Andy Foote he’s very good, very good Facebook group, which I highly recommend everyone to follow. LAUGH it’s called LinkedIn Action User Group Heroes. And there’s another one which I won’t name, but they are this everyone in those blackcat been asking for recommendations about how to use automated software. I’m on that group. And when I do I don’t go there very often because there’s no one. There’s never any value. Yeah, you know, people are just wanting to sell, sell, sell, or asking how to sell, sell, sell. Whereas, say Andy foote’s group and your, your group as well. And yeah, Richard van der Blom’s group and others, like I’ve made, I’ve been making friends all over the world recently, in New Zealand, and in Australia and everywhere. And, you know, we all cooperate nicely together, and we’re willing to look, because, you know, LinkedIn, with LinkedIn, trainers standards vary and we’ve all got a horror story of how we got a client, and somebody came to us and went, “Oh, my God, this person just took my money and, you know, oh, I wish I’d met you earlier.” Let me please let me help you.
Brynne Tillman 20:43
At least once a month I had that conversation.
Steve Bruce 20:45
Yeah, we don’t want to go. It’s not regulated. I really wish LinkedIn would do like a Microsoft Certified thing for LinkedIn (Brynne: I do too) I would happily pay for that. So LinkedIn, if you’re listening, there’s a new revenue stream for you. And, you know, and I wish that they would take a bit better care of us to be honest, because we’re, we’re the power users of LinkedIn. So getting us more involved in the functionality and we can give them a lot of tips on how to improve the platform.
Brynne Tillman 21:15
Agreed. Well, Steve, Bruce, I have so enjoyed this conversation, how can our listeners get in touch with you?
Steve Bruce 21:23
I’m very easy to find just typing Steve Bruce, on LinkedIn. And you’ll see my smiling face there. If you do connect with me, please send me a note and saying that you heard about me from Brynne so that I know that it’s you. And then we can talk more. Obviously, I’m always looking for. I work with people all over the world but obviously, I do live in Asia. So that’s my primary market. So yeah but I’m always happy to connect with anyone, anywhere really the world is small these days.
Brynne Tillman 21:50
Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, thank you for your time and your insights. Steve, such a pleasure having you. I’m sure you brought some great value to our listeners. I hope so. Oh, absolutely. So for everyone else when you are out and about make sure you are making your sales social.
Bob Woods 22:08
Thanks for watching, and join us again for more special guest instructors bringing you marketing, sales training, and social selling strategies that will set you apart. Hit the Subscribe button below to get the latest episodes from the Making Sales Social podcast. Give this video a thumbs up and comment down below on what you want to hear from us next. You can also listen to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play. Visit our website socialsaleslink.com for more information.